Charles Basenga Kiyanda

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I’m guilty of writing shitty cover letters (I’m amazed I ever got a job). NPR Ed has a great write-up about cover letters. While it’s in the context of internship seekers, it all rings true for a job seeker as well. It’s also true for students. My name’s only been on the university website as an assistant Professor for 6 months and I already get 2-10 emails a week that are variations on the theme:

Dear [ respected | beloved | professor Kiyanda |sir ] ,

I have applied to your department at [your university | Concordia University | McGill University ] in [your department | Mechanical Engineering | Aerospace Engineering ] .  I have completed a [undergraduate | master’s ] degree in your field of [mechanical engineering | heat transfer | fluid flow | thermodynamics ]. My file is now complete for the [master’s | phd ] degree and I am looking for a supervisor. I would be delighted to work on the numerous projects you have listed on your website.

Student Name

File ID number

I usually just file those away in a folder because I have no idea what to do with those. Rarely, I’ll get a transcript. Never have I gotten anyone with even a half-page description of a project they like. Or maybe attach three papers you found interesting and discuss how they relate to each other. Maybe I’m biased because I always had a clear view of why I wanted to do a PhD, so I was never in that situation where I ended up applying to a master’s or PhD degree as a life alternative. That was always the path. I’m not that excited about PhD cold calls for a supervisor in the first place, but if you’re going to do it, you have to show me that you’re minimally interested. Enough to do a google scholar search on my name and figure out that I’m quite involved in detonation research. (Hint: for a young professor within 10 years of graduating, you might want to check their PhD thesis. There’s a high chance they’re looking to capitalize on offshoots of that work.)

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